Martin Jol’s team have had a poor start to their league campaign and are sitting 4th, six points off PSV, who lead the Eredivisie after 15 games. Since taking over 18 months ago, Jol hasn’t been able to bring back the glory days, but Ajax has been building a decent squad and have made it to Europe’s elite competition after a five year absence.
A respected manager in his homeland, Jol has been given time to settle in, but success in the league this year is more desirable to the Amsterdammers. The former Spurs and Hamburg manager would, however, love to have the prized scalp of a rampaging Real Madrid team in his hat, especially one being managed by Jose Mourinho, a manager who trumped him 5 times in London derbies. The chances of winning the Champions League might still be few years away for a side in transition, but a place in the knockout round is very much on the cards for last year’s Eredivisie runners-up.
Stekelenberg has been decent in goal, following his widespread fame after his showing in South Africa for the national side. While Jan Vertonghen and Toby Alderweireld have not been all that inconsistent either in the center of defence. They will need to be on their guard if they are to stop the likes of Higuain and Ronaldo from getting on the scoresheet. Gregory van der Wiel has been steady at right back, and so has Vurnon Anita on the left. Both fullbacks have been encouraged to go down in support of their wingers, and will have to do so even more, if they are to put any pressure on the Madrid defence, who have been stingy this season. Eyong Enoh, Siem de Jong and Demy de Zeeuw have gelled together well in a three man midfield. Captain Luis Suarez has been at the heart of everything good that has been happening at the club, and his 12 goals this season has seen them through tricky fixtures in the league and in Europe. Urby Emanuelson has been a breath of fresh air, with his dribbling ability and pace. The Surinamese International has, however, failed to produce the final product in terms of goals scored. However, the buy of the season so far has been Moroccan striker El Hamdaoui from AZ Alkmaar, who has 13 goals to his name this season. Siem de Jong has been pulling the strings in midfield for Ajax, and his role will be crucial to Ajax’s chances. The youngster has scored 5 goals and been a pivotal part of Jol’s line up this season.
Form Guide (DLWWL)
20th Nov : Ajax 0 – 0 PSV
14th Nov : AZ Alkmaar 2 – 0 Ajax
11th Nov : Ajax 3 – 0 BV Veendam (KNVB Cup)
7th Nov : Ajax 1 – 0 Den Haag
3rd Nov : Auxerre 2 -1 Ajax (UCL)
Jose Mourinho and his Real Madrid team have been merciless this season. Unbeaten in La Liga and in Europe, nothing less than a win would suffice for the 9 time European Champions. After winning the Champions League last year with Inter Milan, his acquisition at the Bernabeu was for one reason only. Los Merengues last won the Champions League way back in 2002, when Zidane caressed the ball past Leverkusen with his left foot volley. Since then they have struggled to make it even to the last four of the continent’s most prestigious competition.
Since Mourinho’s arrival things have looked bright for Los Merengues. They sit atop the La Liga table with 32 points from 11 games, 1 ahead of Barcelona and have already qualified for the knock out round of the Champions League. Summer signings Mesut Ozil and Sami Khedira have embraced the Spanish game, while Ricardo Carvalho seems to have found new life under his former Porto and Chelsea manager. Di Maria has created goals, scored goals, even defended when needed, and been a consistent performer for Mourinho’s side. Cristiano Ronaldo and Gonzalo Higuain have been scoring goals for fun, as Real have marched on, blazing past their opponents. Pepe, Ramos and Marcelo have kept putting in strong performances, while Albiol and Arbeloa have been reliable back up when called upon. Kaka’s absence has gone unnoticed almost, while the departure of Real Madrid’s favourite son Raul has been camouflaged by some brilliant attacking play. Iker Casillas has been rock solid in goal and clean sheets have been coming more frequently than before, in typical Mourinho-esque fashion.
After frustrating the fans somewhat with lackluster displays early in the season, the Portuguese master tactician has found favour with the Madrid faithful in recent weeks and will look to carry them through till more silverware fills up the trophy cabinet at the Bernabeu. It is no longer a matter of ‘if’, he will win it for them, just a matter of when.
Form Guide (WWWWD)
20th Nov : Real Madrid 5 – 1 Athletico Bilbao
14th Nov : Sporting Gijon 0 – 1 Real Madrid
10th Nov : Real Murcia 1 – 5 Real Madrid
7th Nov : Real Madrid 2 – 0 Atletico Madrid
3rd Nov : AC Milan 2 – 2 Real Madrid
Probable Line ups –
Ajax (4-3-3) – Stekenlenburg(GK), Van der Weil, Alderweireld, Vertoghen, Anita, De Zeeuw, De Jong, Enoh, Suarez, Emanuelson, El Hamadaoui
Martin Jol would probably go with his best side. The back five pick themselves. Despite the ageing Andre Ooijer once again available for selection, it is unlikely that he will be risked against a young, fast and unforgiving Madrid attack, even if they don’t put their best side out for the game on Tuesday. Enoh, De Zeeuw and De Jong should start for the home side. They will have to win possession from the likes of Ozil and Di Maria and keep the ball, if they are to provide support to the strikers. Emanuelson will have to be more careful with possession as he is most likely to start out wide on the left against the tricky Ramos, while Suarez and El Hamdaoui will look to keep Real Madrid’s defence awake throughout the 90 minutes. The strikers have 25 goals between them already in this campaign, and are most effective when playing together upfront.
Real Madrid (4 -2-3-1) – Casillas(GK), Ramos, Pepe, Carvalho, Marcelo, Alonso, Diarra, Ozil, Pedro Leon, Di Maria, Benzema
Looking forward to one of the most awaited El Clasico’s in history, Mourinho will be tempted to rest key players having already qualified for the next round of the Champions League. Casillas will surely keep his place in the starting line up and look to lead his side from the back, as well as keep another clean sheet. Jose is not known to tamper with his defence unless forced to do so. We could expect the flat back four of Ramos, Pepe, Carvalho and Marcelo starting for the Spanish team. Changes if any, would be in the midfield and in attack. Lassana Diarra would probably get in a look in as Khedira has been ruled out with a hamstring injury, while Pedro Leon could also get a start in place of Cristiano Ronaldo after his hat-trick at the weekend. German starlet Mesut Ozil should also start considering his omission from the international fixture last week. Di Maria will look orchestrate the attack from the right side as he has done very effectively this season, while Benzema is most likely to fill in for Higuain who suffered a back injury against Athletico Bilbao. Jose Mourinho’s men will look to see off the distraction of Ajax, before the almighty battle against the Catalans on Monday night.